THE BIG PICTURE
Many will be shocked to see Uruguay still alive and kicking, and just one win away from the World Cup final. Theoretically South America’s fifth best team (based on World qualification) la celeste have outlasted Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina to be CONMEBOL’s sole remaining representative. Some might even be annoyed at Uruguay’s presence here, since it’s a direct result of Luis Suarez’ handball (since Adiyiah’s header was definitely going in). Good news for those people is that Suarez is suspended for this game as a result of that handball, which breaks up that fearsome Forlan/Suarez combo that’s damaged so many defences in South Africa. Jorge Fucile is also suspended for collecting one too many yellow cards and captain Diego Lugano is struggling with a knee injury. So we’ll find out how good that Uruguayan bench is in this game. More at the Uruguay blog.
The Netherlands have to be favourites here. There were no last minute handballs in their 2-1 win over Brazil in the quarters, and Oranje are the only team left with a 100% record of winning every game at World Cup 2010. Attacking mid Wesley Sneijder has been awarded what we thought was Felipe Melo’s own goal from that quarterfinal, which puts him joint second top scorer in the tournament. I’d say Sneijder’s a good candidate for player of the tournament at this point. The Dutch will be missing right back Gregory van der Wiel and defensive mid Nigel de Jong through suspension. Demy de Zeeuw seems the obvious choice to replace de Jong, but the Man City man’s hard but just about fair tackling will be a big miss. Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are both expected to be fit. For much more, read Jan at the Netherlands blog.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Just a place in the World Cup final, that’s all. Uruguay won the first World Cup in 1930 and repeated in 1950, but has not been back to the final since. The Netherlands went to consecutive finals in 1974 and 1978, but lost to West Germany and Argentina respectively, and haven’t been past the semis in the 32 years since. This looks like their best ever chance to do so, and have another crack at finally joining the World Cup winner’s circle.
I don’t want to dismiss Uruguay, but with the absence of Luis Suarez and the possible absence of Diego Lugano, I can’t see the Netherlands failing to get past them. I’m going to say 2-0 to Netherlands.